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The ALT-OPEL club is a club for all fans of the Opel badge. Whether you drive an Opel, you're looking for an opel, or you're just interested in Opel in general, you are more than welcome in the club. 

The history of the ALT-OPEL club goes back to the time when the term "Old-timer" referred exclusively to pre-war automobiles. The inspiration to also include cars from the 50s and 60s lead to the foundation of the ALT-OPEL club in 1972.

The common declared aim was to continue the maintenance, care and functional operation of the entire range of vehicles produced by the company Adam Opel ltd as a sort of historical documentation. This is...


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 Olympia '51 in the US

2_01Penelope Cruz and the Olympia '51  - a beautiful couple


Opel’s were sold in the United States from 1959 through 1975 through Buick dealerships. In the years prior and after that period, so called “Grey Market” Opel’s managed to be brought over from Europe. I am in possession of two cars from either side of the dealer sales period. A 1951 Olympia and a 1984 Senator CD.

I the third owner of the ’51 Oly. It was purchased new in Switzerland by Anne Scholz who drove it around Europe for 4 years.  After her marriage to Carl Stern who was a cellist with the New York Philharmonic, she shipped it to their summer estate in Blue Hill, Maine.  The Olympia was used sparingly and sat in a barn for many years until it was purchased by a local named Richard Gay.

Mr. Gay mainly drove the Oly in parades in Blue Hill. When he sold it to me on September 9, 2001, it had 62,000km on the odometer. I was surprised at the overall condition of the car that had spent over 50 years in the cold weather state of Maine. There was very little rust, the motor started and ran quietly, the only problem was the brakes needed attention.

With the help of some friends in Germany and Matz Autoteile, I was able to get the parts needed (and several spares).

In 2007, the Oly and my 1969 GT was used in a photoshoot with Penelope Cruz for Mango Fashions Fall catalog. A photos from that shoot was on the cover of the October 2007 Opel Magazine.  The Oly also appeared as a background vehicle in the recent movie “American Hustle”.

Short of a new headliner and some upholstery work, the Oly will be preserved as is and not restored.

My Senator CD was purchased from Autohaus Rau in 1984 by Richard Little. Mr Little has residences in Europe and California. He was able to ship the car over and had it modified to meet U.S. DOT specifications. The modification’s included adding side marker lights, strengthening the bumpers, and modifying the exhaust to meet the strict California emissions standards. The 3.0E motor was rebuilt after an overheating problem and was used sparingly after that. I purchased the Senny from Mr. Little and had it shipped cross country to Massachusetts. Where I have been driving it daily during the warm months.

Like the Olympia, the Senator has been a background car in two movies. “Labor Day” and the upcoming movie “Bleed for this”. Here is a link to a web article about this car:


Gary Farias * 3992


1_265Two rarities in the United States - Olympia '51 and Senator A2



The Olympia is largely in its original state, while ...

4... major interventions were due to the Senator already







Manta Ato recognize the side indicators in US version





The Ascona hit the tastes of US customers better than the Kadett B, Robert Heimerl recalls



The Kadett C was also successful as Chevrolet, Pontiac, Buick ...


... and the advertisers were trying to interpret the tiny by US standards dimensions as an advantage.


Rarities, however, were Rekord D and Commodore A - no parts!

"You can't get parts for that car." - Part 1


Many years ago, long before the Internet, email and eBay, a small number of German-made Opels arrived in America, vehicles that their manufacturer, oddly enough, did not intend to ever be owned or operated in what had long been the world's largest automotive market.  Instead, these attractively designed, well-built cars were brought into this country by military personnel returning from U.S. bases in Cold War-era Europe.  These freelance-style imports -- which took place during a six-year period beginning around 1961 and ending in 1968 -- included a variety of compact Opel Rekords and Commodores (sedans, coupes and wagons) and even a handful of that major European automaker's mid-sized Diplomat, Admiral and Kapitan sedans.  This unusual set of circumstances was made possible -- albeit briefly -- by two factors, both related to U.S. Government policy: First, military personnel were allowed to bring home personal goods, including automobiles purchased abroad.  Second, due to public pressure generated by auto safety advocates -- most notably Ralph Nader -- a much stricter set of rules for auto manufacturers -- both domestic and foreign -- went into effect January 1, 1968.  These Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards included a list of requirements for vehicle lighting, braking systems, occupant safety and much more.  Later, tightened emissions laws would further limit what cars could legally be imported to the United States -- as would strengthened bumper standards by 1973.


These changes meant that far fewer foreign-made cars would come to the U.S. outside of existing networks of manufacturer-authorized dealers.  Previously, many vehicles had arrived here through "European delivery" services in which a purchaser would use their car overseas, then have it shipped back home. Now, if anyone -- including military personnel -- wanted to import such vehicles they had to be "Federalized" and, in the case of California, had to also meet a stringent set of state emissions requirements.   These new laws would soon become a source of frustration for those Americans who wanted to own and drive something out of the ordinary, specifically, models sold in other parts of the world, but rarely -- if ever -- seen in this country (including many extremely valuable "exotics").  Overall, it just couldn't be done -- or at least it couldn't be done cheaply.   In general, these rare and unusual vehicles would either need to be brought into compliance with U.S. law at what was often great expense or -- much like illegal immigrants -- be returned to their country of origin.


In the case of most non-exotics, it was often much more sensible for them to simply be scrapped/destroyed.  A few non-conforming cars managed to make it in anyway, but were generally a source of problems to those who bought them.  [Imported vehicles not specifically manufactured for U.S. export eventually became known as "grey market" cars and the time frame was advanced from 1968 forward, allowing the importation of vehicles manufacturer more than 25 years prior to the current date for personal use.]  In general, no one wanted to take responsibility for these automotive orphans.  Manufacturers' warranties would not be honored, parts supplies could not be assured.  They were much like children whose parents had died -- or otherwise mysteriously disappeared.


The Orphan Opels


Objects and ideas nearly always have some sort of traceable parentage, but in a few cases there's a poorly-defined relationship between a parent and their offspring -- or, as in this case, between a manufacturer and its products.


Which brings us to the fact that Adam Opel AG has long been a wholly-owned subsidiary of Detroit-based General Motors, a relationship that has alternately proven to be either a curse or a blessing to that now-ailing, century-old German marque.  In the United States, Opels were once sold through a network of over 2000 Buick dealers (beginning in 1958 with the Rekord PI, later shifting to the smaller, less expensive, Kadett in 1962). By the latter half of the 1960’s the diminutive Kadett was selling in sufficient numbers for Opel to seriously challenge Volkswagen's dominance of the U.S. import market -- although these "entry-level" vehicles were not well-regarded by the automotive press.  However, by 1971 a group of slightly larger (and noticeably more stylish) Opels arrived from Germany to compete with the rapidly expanding offerings of Japanese manufacturers and, more specifically, with Ford of Europe's best-selling Mercury Capri.  With the introduction of the "1900" -- known elsewhere as the Manta and Ascona -- the Opel brand finally began to achieve a degree of respectability in America.  It was no longer just an entry level car.



Opel's improving image was partly due to the earlier, well-publicized introduction of the sporty little GT (the "mini Corvette") -- an effort known in the industry as a “halo” car, a limited-production model designed to bring large numbers of potential buyers into showrooms.  That combination clearly worked well in this case, as Opels became an increasingly common sight on American roads.  They were often purchased by students and other individuals who couldn't afford larger, more expensive models -- however, Buick dealers resented being forced by GM to sell vehicles that they did not really care for (in every sense of that phrase).  While the products offered appeared headed in an upscale direction -- the 1975 models included fuel injection as standard equipment (largely to meet stricter emissions standards) -- the underlying conflicts present from the beginning of the Buick/Opel relationship would contribute to a decision to end German Opel imports to this country (along with an unfavorable shift in Dollar/Duetschmark exchange rates).  And those same unhappy circumstances were something that my family and I -- as owners of a succession of non-U.S. export Opel models -- experienced first-hand over a period of nearly 25 years.Indeed, we owned quite a few "orphan" Opels during the 1960's, 70's and 80's.  And we liked them a lot -- in spite of the fact that Buick/Opel dealers did their best to ignore both us and the larger, unfamiliar-looking models we'd come to own.  Yet, like the Kadetts that they were somewhat reluctantly selling, these cars were adorned with that same emblem, a rocket (later a lightning bolt) crossing a circle. [Later better known as "the Blitz," as memories of WWII faded.] 


In a world economy that appeared dominated by the buying and selling of all sorts of manufactured items/objects, this seemed truly bizarre to me.  These looked like nice automobiles.  Why not let Americans buy them?  The answer to that question, along with many others, lay largely in the decision-making processes of the giant multinational corporation known as General Motors.  If it had been up to me, we would certainly have had many more Opels on American roads and, consequently, far fewer automotive atrocities like the similarly-sized (but poorly designed and badly built) Chevrolet Vega.


But it was clearly not up to me.


So exactly how did we come to own these "orphan" Opels?  Put simply, when military personnel who’d been assured that GM would provide parts and service for their non-export models realized they'd been misled, they quickly traded their cars in on other models that could be more easily maintained.  For example, I can still recall seeing a nearly new Opel Admiral with a market-inappropriate, column-mounted, 4-speed manual transmission languishing for months at a Buick dealer, finding no buyer (no, this was one that even we wouldn't touch). Typically, such unwanted automobiles ended up being wholesaled to smaller dealers, then were relegated to the back row of used car lots in Newport News, Hampton and Norfolk, Virginia (areas also known as Tidewater and Hampton Roads, the home of many large military installations, most notably the Norfolk Naval Shipyard and Langley Air Force Base).


And that’s where we found them sitting, usually only a year or two old -- with extremely low mileage -- and often at absurdly low prices, around two or three hundred dollars (one was bought for only $50, but had been slightly damaged during shipping).  They represented good, cheap transportation -- if one was willing to take a risk on their long-term reliability.  Car dealers, both new and used, hated being stuck with these "oddball" cars.  They simply couldn't make any money on vehicles that were so completely unknown -- to both them and their prospective customers.  For us, though, that was actually an advantage.


Text by Robert Heimerl

Images by Robert Heimerl, Archive Bart Buts *2307

"You can't get parts for that car." - Part 2


B-Rekord with dual headlights


The Commodore A Coupe...


...obviously longer time spent outdoors


The border between collection and junkyard runs smoothly


The Ascona A were in the United States regularly on sale


In this accident Robert was fortunately hardly hurt


"Small cars mean small profits."


We soon discovered that the secret to owning these automotive orphans was to be extremely patient and highly resourceful when they required parts/repairs, since the aforementioned Buick dealers wanted very little to do with them.  After all, they'd already been forced to purchase separate sets of tools specific to the officially imported Opel models (metric, rather than “standard”), hire and train mechanics capable of repairing them, as well as provide a supply of spare parts -- all of which had to be imported from that far-away place then known as W. Germany.  Worst of all for Buick dealers, these cars' low prices presented very few opportunities for making a profit.  Indeed, American auto industry executives at the time frequently pointed out that "Small cars mean small profits." So dealers were generally not interested in selling these little "foreign cars" (not even in large numbers) and were especially not interested in helping those who were adventurous enough (or crazy enough) to own larger Opel products never intended for export to the United States.  And, to make matters worse, Buick dealers charged higher prices for Opel parts and service -- perhaps compensating for the slim profits these cars brought to their sales departments.


We would not be their best customers.  Indeed, parts sellers and mechanics at our local Buick dealer literally groaned out loud when they saw us coming.


Learning Tools


This set of circumstances meant that we had to do our best to learn how to perform nearly all maintenance/repair work ourselves and, in general, that was a good thing.  While car buyers typically have few clues about how to maintain their own vehicles, we ended up being able to do almost everything ourselves. So, yes, that really was a good thing.  Opels were in fact fairly conventional in design, not so different from other cars on the road -- presenting us with a real educational opportunity.  To this day, I view automobiles as learning tools, as a means of acquiring information about car design and engineering and, more generally, about an industry that plays an important role in the daily lives of millions around the world.  I've also had a chance to meet many great people in the process, quite a few of whom are somehow involved in the old car hobby/subculture.  How all this came about will hopefully make for an interesting tale. 


Much of the story relates to the fact that my father was an engineer (initially civil, later aeronautical and aerospace) who worked at a NASA research facility in Hampton, Virginia.  In the mid-60's he purchased a dark blue Rekord 2-door (known in Germany as a PII), mindful that his two sons were nearing the age when they'd soon be driving on their own.  While it's also possible that he may have been attracted to this car due to his own German heritage, it's not clear that this was the key factor in his purchase decision -- it may have simply been a bargain.  Indeed, this nice, but exceedingly rare, foreign-made automobile might eventually provide inexpensive transportation for two teenage boys, but it also represented something of a gamble for what had normally been a very cautious man.  No, hardly anyone in our area was familiar with this model (and, yes, consistently mispronounced its name as ReeKord).  Although we didn't keep this particular Opel for more than two or three years, I always thought it was a nice-sized vehicle that had many intriguing features (like a speedometer that changed colors from red to orange to green as speeds increased), neat round knobs that slowly opened and closed the vent windows, fully reclining front seats and a wonderful AM/FM/shortwave Blaupunkt radio.  To me, at least, this model seemed a lot nicer than its counterparts in GM's newly expanded compact model line-up (which also included Chevy II's, Corvairs, Buick Specials, Oldsmobile F-85's and Pontiac Tempests).  However, by U.S. standards the Opel Rekord PII was rather small and seriously under-powered, even if it was quite fuel efficient.  However, a car's fuel economy wasn't a major consideration for most Americans at the time, since gas prices were slightly under 30 cents a gallon.  So, few here seemed interested in owning a German-made Opel.

Waste Not, Want Not


One concept my engineer father emphasized to his teenage sons, though, was that larger cars not only wasted fuel, they also used far too much of what he considered to be scarce, undervalued, resources: Steel, plastics, glass, rubber, etc.  He had, after all, grown up during the Great Depression and then lived through the war years, witnessing shortages of many key materials.  And, as an aeronautical/aerospace engineer specializing in structures and materials, he always stressed the fact that lighter weight made for faster acceleration.  [This was aptly demonstrated by a BMW 1602 that we owned in the early 70’s. It was considerably lighter than our Opels, creating weaknesses in certain areas -- the front seat mounts pulled out of its light-weight floor -- but faster and sportier in terms of performance/handling.]  However, as any parent knows, it's difficult to deliver a message of strict austerity during times when widespread affluence appears to be the norm.  The consumption-driven economic boom of the mid-1960's meant that even many lower-income Americans could now own products they'd once only dreamed of owning -- financing could be arranged on relatively easy terms.  "Buy Now, Pay Later" was the rule of the day.


My parents, bucking this trend, paid cash for everything -- including our house and our cars.  And instead of only one or two higher-priced American cars, we came to own quite a few inexpensive European-built automobiles.  To me, that was a good thing, a great experience.  But it was really different, and some neighbors no doubt thought us strange.  In what might have been described as the Age of Conformity, many Americans sought to do everything possible to fit into societal norms -- even in terms of buying whatever car most other people were buying, doing whatever was popular.  Advertising campaigns sought to reinforce this behavior on a massive scale, but a few of us remained unimpressed, largely immune to those appeals.  My father's automotive choices made that clear and for me, at least, that wasn't a problem.  After all, I liked being different -- and driving a different kind of car helped make that clear to everyone.


I cannot count the number of times I was stopped and asked, "What kind of car is that?"  And, although I wasn't really looking for attention, I was always happy to answer questions when people showed signs of interest in my car.  Yes, I'd have many opportunities to educate others about Adam Opel AG.


After the PII, we had a series of Rekord A’s and B’s, over half a dozen during a ten-year period, including at least two wagons, three coupes and two sedans. One of them was a rare Rekord A-6 coupe, an interesting model with the big Kapitan engine squeezed under its hood.  These were nice, boxy cars with excellent outward visibility and lots of useful interior space -- including huge trunks and large load-carrying areas in the case of Rekord Caravans.  And they were easy to work on, despite Buick dealers’ protestations that no one here was capable of servicing or repairing them (for the most part, they wouldn't even try).  Parts were indeed hard to come by, but we eventually created our own supply based on a few cars that had already been junked.  And, fortunately, we lived in an area where we could have many cars for extended periods without upsetting our neighbors.  So, almost from the first time I drove, I drove an Opel.

Smalltown Boy


I was raised in a rural area outside of tiny, but historically significant, Yorktown, Virginia -- where America gained its independence from Britain in 1781.


Even before getting a driver’s license I learned to drive in open fields and empty parking lots, eagerly awaiting the opportunity to obtain a learner's permit. And while we had many imported cars over the years, my father always bought sensible, mid-sized Fords for his daily commute to work -- so the car I first drove on a public road was a 1950 Ford, rather than an Opel.  And, aside from Opels, we eventually owned a wide variety of rare but inexpensive European cars, including a Hillman, two Triumphs, three Sunbeams, a Vauxhall, a Simca and, yes, even that one ragged BMW and a couple of nice -- but soon-to-become mainstream -- Volvos.  Most of these were projects, vehicles discarded by others because they needed difficult-to-obtain parts or, more likely, because the required repairs were too expensive due to the particular model’s rarity and the related lack of experienced mechanics willing to work on them.  In fact, it appeared that the rarer the model was, the lower the asking price would be -- a marketplace characteristic that now seems rather counter-intuitive.  And while a few of these projects were never completed, most quickly came back to life, providing us with many years of use.  So it was a gamble that usually paid off, but it certainly took lots of patience and a great deal of resourcefulness.  In general, it was a risk well worth taking -- a genuine learning experience.


Things have truly changed for the better since that time, particularly in terms of availability of parts and information about what were, indeed, extremely rare cars in this country.  However, they provided challenging projects for teenage boys, excellent learning tools that were most likely intended to keep us out of worse trouble -- indeed, several of my brother's classmates died in street racing accidents in big and powerful American cars.  Starting in high school, however, I drove small, somewhat under-powered Opel Rekords on a daily basis.  Later, during my college days, I had a red Rekord B 4-door 1.7. Once again, it was a little slow, but incredibly roomy -- an "L" model with very comfortable (and, yes, fully reclining) bucket seats.  This was a car we had found sitting in front of a foreign car junkyard near Richmond, VA in the early 1970's.  Because of its huge trunk, they’d been using it to transport parts from their field of cars, but it had finally gotten so it would no longer run.  Although this car's body was now covered with mud, the black vinyl upholstery had held up very well and despite a poorly fitted set of "quad" headlamps (the original rectangular ones wouldn't pass state inspection), it looked like it could be saved from a very sad fate. Knowing Opels (as I did by then), I immediately installed a new set of ignition points.  It started right up, ran well.  Later, this nicely-equipped car was cleaned up to look like new -- even though it had nearly gone out of existence.  After providing reliable transportation during my college days, this red Rekord B sedan was sold to a succession of friends and neighbors who drove it for another 10 years, finally wearing out its clutch.


If I recall correctly, that car had only cost us $150.  What a great value!  It was a lesson I've never forgotten:  Many objects that others chose to discard are still perfectly useful, assuming one is willing to put some effort into learning what needs to be done to repair them.  Most people simply won't make the effort.


I'm different -- and given this car's example, I will make the effort.  If you like something, if makes sense to do so.  After all, nearly anything can be fixed.


Looking back, we could also have easily replaced that red Rekord's clutch -- but it was far away at the time, somewhere near New York City.  So it was junked, even though I'm sure there was more life left in that aging Opel (by then it was over 15 years old).  Yes, sometimes one has to be ruthlessly practical about such things, setting aside emotional attachments when a situation warrants it.  But it can be difficult, given long-established patterns of behavior -- as non-conformist as those behavior patterns may have, in fact, become.


Text by Robert Heimerl

Images by Robert Heimerl, Archive Bart Buts *2307

















8th Opel Historic Vehicles International Meeting - June 13, 2015 Garda, Italy
With more than 90 attending cars, the 8th Opel Historic Vehicles International Meeting, held on June 13, 2015 in Garda, Italy, along the shore of the Garda Lake, was a success.
Organized by Opel Manta Fans Italy club (Opel Official Partner), it was reserved to rear-driven Opel of 30 years old or more.
Beside Italy, crews came from Swiss, Slovenia, Germany and Austria. Between foreign clubs, main presence of Swiss Hoffeld Opel Club with several restored Manta B, Coupé and Fastback, three of them with full female crew. Very rare was the i300 version with 3.0 litre 6 cyl 177 CV motor, originally mounted on Omega A. A special notation about some very rare front-drive models, like the 1983-87 Keinath Ascona C Cabriolet (only 434 produced) coming from Russelsheim; also a very scarce 1984 Corsa A 13 SR fully original preserved.   


Some Kadett C GT/E 1900 and 2000 were attending, together with several GT 1900 (also Conrero), some Kadett B Rallye, many Manta A 1.2 but also 1.6 SR and 1.9 SR (some with Sunroof and automatic transmission) and a 1973 GT/E 1.9 105 CV Injection.  Some Ascona A, notably one 1.6 SR 4 door with Vinyl roof, and another one 1.9 SR 2 door.   


Between 'Mass-produced cars', quite rare today was a Kadett B 1.2 Standard 2 door with automatic transmission, coming from Swiss. Also rare was the Kadett C Aero Cabriolet Baur with 1.2 engine.  Representative of the 60's, some not easy to see cars (at least in Italy) like the 1962 Kadett A Caravan, together with a 1964 Kadett A Luxus, both very well restored with original italian plates.  Also a couple of Rekord P2, a 4 door Sedan and a 2 door Coupé, now rare here despite the past diffusion.  Notable was also a Gold Metallic Rekord C 1700 Luxus 4 door with original Leather interiors, shiny as fresh fully restored. 


The oldest cars attending were representative of the 'Panorama Age': a 1959 Olympia Rekord P1 and an extremely rare 1958 Kapitaen P2.5 'Schluesselloch', both preserved and with original italian plates, coming on their wheels from Rome, to certify the brand reliability! 


Some of the cars/crews present were prized, while a present was given to all participants. A special prize was deserved to the farthermost comig car: a shiny fully restored 1973 Commodore Coupé, coming to Garda Lake from the 1.500 Km far city of Reggio Calabria, in the very South of Italy. This Commodore also got the 'Best Of Show' Prize. 


During the Meeting, a visit to Garda Lake County Museum was possible, where was exposed a collection of old objects, tools etc. used up to 50's in Fishing, Farming, Carpentry and in daily life of the populations of Coastal Communities. 


At the end, after the Group photo, a goodbye to the next International Meeting, sceduled in 2017.


Massimo Follaro *4319










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